Sri Lanka Tamil Tiger breakaway group member shot dead

April 15, 2007 (AFP) - Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead a member of a breakaway group in eastern Sri Lanka as the country marked the start of the traditional New Year, the defence ministry said Sunday.

The victim, identified as a member of a Tamil faction known as the "Karuna Group" believed allied with government forces, was killed Saturday in the Batticaloa district where five people were gunned down the same day by suspected rebels, the ministry said.

Tiger rebels denied killing the five people and blamed the military for the deaths.

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The latest killings came as both the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil community marked their common New Year on Saturday.

The rituals connected with the New Year celebrations continue through Thursday.

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More than 4,000 people died between December 2005 and the first week of March 2007 across the country, including 675 civilians and 1,040 security personnel, according to defence ministry figures. The LTTE has waged a 35-year campaign for independence that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

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